After five years, 11 events and 17,000 steaks served, the Steaks for Soldiers campaign wrapped up with its final event May 9 in CFB Shilo.
The Canadian Cattleman’s Association (CCA) first initiated the event in 2007 after the first troop rotation returned home from Afghanistan.
The CCA sponsored 1,700 steaks to be served to the returning troops of the Royal Canadian Regiment and their families at CFB Petawawa.
Following the initial 2007 event, Manitoba businessman Harvey Dann stepped forward with his daughter Jackie to continue the program offering a beefy thanks to Canadian Forces on military bases across Canada.
“In 2010 our company was celebrating our 25th anniversary in business and we wanted to do something that would be a give-back,” said Dann. “Over the course of six to eight months we raised over $120,000 from 650 producers throughout the country, mostly from Western Canada.”
Dann owns and operates Alert Agri Distributors in West St. Paul, exporting fat cattle to the U.S. Through his connections in the cattle industry, Dann was able to raise funds to repeat and expand the CCA original event.
“I have always had a soft spot for the military and we wanted to do some sort of give-back. It was certainly a joint effort and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the producers who donated, whether it be money or time. I certainly couldn’t have done it without the cattle producer community,” said Dann.
Since 2007, 11 events have been held in CFB Shilo, CFB Edmonton, CFB Val Cartier and CFB Petawawa.
“As the base commander here in Shilo, I have the benefit of being involved in lots of events that are sponsored by businesses and government organizations, but this is one of the few events that is an independent, individual and an association with no direct connection to the military that have put this much effort into an event and it is very humbling for us military folks,” said Stephen D. Joudrey, CFB Shilo base commander.
After five years of holding the events, Dann decided it was time to wrap up the campaign. He chose to hold the final event on May 9 in his home province.
“I am from Manitoba and so we wanted to wrap the event up here in Shilo. It has certainly been a very positive event and a good give-back,” said Dann.
The final event saw 800 hamburgers and 800 steaks served. Preferred Meats out of Winnipeg supplied the Canadian beef and a number of industry members participated in serving the soldiers, including Ramona Blyth, CCA board member and Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) first vice-president.
“It is a great day and an honour for us to serve them. They are so appreciative of what we are doing,“ said Blyth, who has also participated in the event on two previous occasions. “We are sad to see this initiative come to an end, but we have been very glad to be a part of this throughout the years that it has been hosted.”
The Steaks for Soldiers campaign ended its run with a $27,000 surplus which was donated to two charities, Soldier On and the Military Families Fund.
“You can only carry a project on for so long and when we decided to wrap it up there was a surplus, which we certainly wanted to give back to the military community,” said Dann.
Soldier On was founded in 2006 and works to empower retired and serving members of the Canadian Forces who have an illness or injury, through physical, recreational and sporting activities.
The Military Families Fund provides emergency financial assistance to military families facing unforeseen needs due to conditions of service.
“When it is an industry that is coming forward with no fanfare, they aren’t doing this to show what they are doing for us — they are just doing it for us. I think it is a lovely gesture and a selfless gesture on their part,” said Joudrey.